I know, I’ve been on a REH kick. But these DelRey editions of his collected work are awesome. I splurged and got ’em all, so there will be much Howardian goodness rolling through my noggin for the next while (though I will try and keep ASOTGS picks from different authors each week).
“The Phoenix and the Sword” is the first Conan story, from THE COMING OF CONAN THE CIMMERIAN, which was really a re-written King Kull tale. And it’s a doozy. It reads like an inspiration to every D&D game you ever played. A lost age of magic and monsters, a mercenary who becomes king and runs afoul of leaders of royal families, a hideous creature summoned by vile magic, and a magic sword in the hand of the ferocious king to deal with it.
It’s a wonderful adventure story, crammed with action, but one of the things I love about Howard’s pioneering work in sword and sorcery is the atmosphere. There is a sense of place, a world of shadow and substance, created in the tale. It might be because it’s all half formed and in the early stages, but the sense of a strange, dark and enchanted realm, created from a hodge podge of historical and genre sources, makes for a heady brew.
By Crom, you can see where Gygax and company turned for much of their inspiration. Cool beans!